Nonfiction by Bailey Willis
This is the story of my body acceptance journey.
I remember in 6th grade P.E being weighed. I remember it like it was yesterday. Everybody was lined up in their uniforms: a grey shirt and black shorts. They had to weigh us. I don’t know why our weight mattered, but it did. I was at the very end of the line.
It took ten minutes for me to finally get to the front, which I didn’t mind. I stood on the scale, and the P.E teacher said, “You weigh a hundred and five pounds.” Her voice was sharp and calculated, so I took no offense to anything she said. I nodded and walked away.
I didn’t care. It was only a number.
I proceeded to walk around the gym, hearing other girls talk about their weight. They weighed 90 pounds; it made me feel insecure. 105 pounds is not a lot, especially when you are still growing. But this number became a weight tied to my ankle. When the number grew, the weight became heavier and harder to move. I carried this weight for three years. Every time I gained weight, I would cry. Jean shopping was the worst because nothing ever seemed to fit right. When I was 140 pounds, which was average, I was still fighting to lose weight.
I would play workout games on the Wii, like Biggest Loser. To be honest, it was a stupid show and game. Why would someone want to profit from bigger people losing weight? There are no shows about skinny people gaining weight, so why was this different? It was different because being fat is not the same as being “too skinny.” When biggest loser got me nowhere, I started playing sports. I did basketball, which I hated, and volleyball which I loved. Even then, I still didn’t lose weight. Yes, I looked more toned, but I was still 140.
It didn’t help that my mom was constantly trying to lose weight. Salads. Gym memberships. Protein shakes. Routines just to drop ten pounds. I never understood why – she looked fine to me. She looked more than fine: she was beautiful. A water lily in the middle of the swamp. She is like the aurora borealis, an explainable kind of beauty. Even when she was doing mundane activities, like driving or cooking, she still was unexplainably beautiful. But she wanted to change. It made me think it was normal to want to change your body. Me wanting to change my body made me hate myself. I was obsessing over a number, over my own image.
I was friends with skinny girls with small arms and thigh gaps, girls that could fit in size zero jeans while I was a nine. I didn’t know size zero existed until I wasn’t it. These girls would call themselves fat. But they weren’t. They were never like me or any other girls going through what I was going through. We were carrying luggage that cost extra. People would say “Bailey you aren’t fat – you’re chubby and cute” instead of calling me fat they would call me chubby, curvy. Words that weren’t as hurtful as fat. I was never “fat” fat, I was just not skinny. My sizing was weird – my jeans size grew while my shirt size stayed the same.
I didn’t even know how to describe myself.
Season Ten of America’s Next Top Model will always be close to my heart because it is the first season that a plus-size model won. I remember sitting on the couch watching it with my mom. In 8th grade, Whitney Thompson was the first plus-size model I had ever known. Of course, all throughout Season Ten, the judges were hard on her because, well, she had boobs, a butt, and a tummy – features that weren’t common in the modeling industry. They would always say she was too big; she took up too much space. It didn’t matter that she had a model’s face. She was just too much in their opinion.
I doubt that any of the judges would have ever thought that she would make it to the very end and win America’s Next Top Model. She was one of the first stepping stones in my body acceptance journey.
I didn’t become immersed in body positivity until freshman year. Freshman year was when the new “thick” revolution came about. Some girls no longer wanted to be thinner; they wanted to be thicker. I was amazed because I had just spent three years trying to be thinner and all of a sudden these girls wanted to be closer to my size. My mind was blown.
Social media became a different platform for me. Plus-size girls and curvy models were being worshipped on the daily. Hashtags such as #bodyposi showed love to girls that were bigger than the standard U.S size. People were showing love towards cellulite and stretch marks.
Social media helped me find role models. You would be surprised how many plus-size and curvy models are teens. I started experimenting with clothes; I wore and bought so many dresses. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and bought cropped tops which generally used to be a no-go for chubby girls. I had also shied away from patterns because I thought they accentuated all of my flaws. When I began dressing for me and only me, I started wearing more colors and patterns instead of wearing all black.
Even though so much body positivity is being spread, there is still a lot of fat shaming. Everyone thinks they are a doctor and that they can voice their opinion on someone’s body, when their face is behind a screen. I don’t think fat shaming will ever stop, I think it will always hurt more than it should. Especially when someone, behind a screen, is yelling at you for being happy because they think that because you’re fat or chubby you can’t be happy. That is complete nonsense. Everyone deserves happiness.
I’ve grown a lot since middle school. I no longer feel obligated to conform to certain societal standards. I no longer feel that because I have a little extra weight that I am not beautiful. I’m happy and content with how I am at this moment because it’s only a number, and it will never hurt me like it did in middle school. Nothing and no one should ever make you feel worthless. It doesn’t matter if you are fat, skinny, or in between. You are a unique flower in a field of wheat.
Bailey Willis is a senior at Fort Vancouver High School. She has been put in Advanced English classes all throughout her high school career. She was born and raised in Vancouver. After high school, she plans to attend a four-year college in the state of Washington.